If Witt’s name is know
at all these days it’s probably still
only in default. It was his "Jena"
symphony that was briefly believed to
be an early work of Beethoven’s. If
anything, though, Witt’s muse was Mozartian.
Take a listen to the opening of his
Sixth Symphony (the turque) and
you’ll hear a battery of Il Seraglio
percussion and the usual panoply
of Turkish instrumentation to be expected
in a work of this kind, not least the
piccolo. Brisk, clever, corralled along
expected stylistic norms and perhaps
somewhat repetitious, it nevertheless
displays a certain characteristic brio.
His slow movements, for instance, are
never, on the evidence of this disc,
remotely profound or serious – and don’t
pretend to aim for those qualities.
That of the Sixth is cleverly done to
allow lyric wind lines to emerge over
a string pizzicato base. The scherzo
is a real charmer, though, a ländler
with a strong role for a solo cello-led
theme à la Viennois.
The Flute Concerto
shows more Mozartian affiliations and
it offers plenty of opportunities for
capricious display – all negotiated
with considerable panache by Susanne
Barner. The solemn horns in the slow
movement and the lyric line generally
rather remind one of The Magic Flute
fused with the unfolding lines of, say,
the slow movement of Mozart’s K218 Violin
Concerto whilst the finale has a warm-hearted
– and unexpected – polonaise through
which the soloist nimbly and agilely
cavorts. A most attractive work.
The companion symphony
is the ninth, published in 1818. It
too pays its Mozartian bows, most clearly
to Don Giovanni though there’s plenty
of tensely argued writing, and some
fine suspensions. In the slow movement
once again we find wind-led lyric voices
as well as important roles for solo
cello and first horn, all of which Witt
unfolds with great character and elegant
control. A renewed highlight in his
Minuet – this has charm written all
over it – and the finale is dashing,
deft and contains a fugato passage to
add interest and build tension, though
with no academic posturing.
Under Johannes Moesus
the Hamburg Symphony plays with imagination
and persuasive corporate colour, and
they bring these seldom-heard works
to life with real panache.